PETER SEES A VISION OF GOD

Acts 10:1-11:18

Key Verse: 10:13

"Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat."'

Today's passage is a story about two persons: one is Peter, a Jew,

and the other is Cornelius, a Roman soldier. God moved Peter's heart

through a vision to visit Cornelius. God also moved Cornelius' heart to

welcome Peter and accept the gospel of salvation. The gospel of Jesus,

which began in Jerusalem, had not yet reached Rome. But it reached to a

Roman soldier. In this way, a new landmark in church history was made.

I. The visions of Peter and Cornelius (10:1-23a)

In this part, two persons, Peter and Cornelius, see God's vision.

Let's learn how they could see God's vision, and the contents of their

visions.

First, Cornelius' vision (1-8). Look at verse 1. "At Caesarea there was

a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian

Regiment." Cornelius was a Roman soldier stationed at Caesarea, the

headquarters of Roman government in Palestine. Cornelius was a

centurion of the Italian Regiment. Mostly, Roman soldiers were Africans

drafted or hired by the Roman government. But there were a minority of

Italian soldiers--crack units of the Roman army. Cornelius was an

Italian centurion with 100 Italian soldiers under his command.

Centurions were the backbone of the Roman army, and they were expected

to win victories or otherwise, to stand fast and die at their posts.

Therefore, Cornelius must have been a well-disciplined Roman officer

with the spirit and loyalty of a Roman soldier. At that time, the world

was a Roman world, and Cornelius was a Roman centurion. Humanly

speaking, he was a lucky person. It seemed that he didn't need anyone's

help, and that he didn't have to seek God. He could claim to be his own

man. But to our surprise, Cornelius sought God earnestly until he

learned of God Almighty from the Jews. The prosperity of the Roman

Empire and being recognized as a man of Roman spirit made him happy

from time to time, but these human conditions could not satisfy his

soul. His soul was thirsty for the holiness of God. His soul was hungry

for the truth and grace of God. He was a pompous Roman soldier, but he

wanted his heavenly Father because he was made in the holy image of

God.

In the New Testament times, there were many thirsty souls. For

example, the Ethiopian eunuch was the treasurer for the Ethiopian

queen. He lived in a palace, but he came to Jerusalem to seek and

worship God. Probably he was tired of all the luxury and immorality and

empty way of palace life. He was suffering from deep fatigue and

boredom. He came to Jerusalem to seek and worship God.

Commonly, soldiers are very wild and enjoy the fleeting pleasures of

life in order to forget about present realities. But Cornelius was

different. He was a very pious man. He was also a good influence to his

family members. Because of his good influence, his family members were

also devout and God-fearing. He was a blessing to the people around

him. Cornelius also gave generously to those in need. His love for God

made him love others. And he was a man of prayer. Obviously, he learned

how to pray regularly from the Jews. In brief, he was a Roman

centurion, but he had the fear of God in his heart. He was a man of

integrity; he was not far from the kingdom of God. However, he needed

to hear the good news about Jesus.

Once, in the afternoon at the regular prayer time, Cornelius prayed

earnestly. Then God visited him in a vision. Look at verses 3-5. "One

day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw

an angel of God, who came to him and said, 'Cornelius!' Cornelius

stared at him in fear. 'What is it, Lord?' he asked. The angel

answered, 'Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a

memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man

named Simon who is called Peter.'" So many people calculate this and

that and are finally swallowed up by the worries of life. But Cornelius

prayed and saw a vision of God. There were so many things to seek, but

he sought God (Dt.4:29; Mt.7:7,8). God saw this man Cornelius and told

him in a vision to welcome Peter and hear the message of salvation. It

is amazing to know that Cornelius saw a great vision of God while he

was praying.

Second, Peter's vision (9-23a). About noon the following day as

Cornelius' servants were approaching the city, Peter went up on the

roof to pray. As he was usually, he was hungry and wanted something to

eat. While the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw

heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth

by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as

well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told

him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat!" In this short phrase, "Kill and

eat," all God's plan for world salvation is passionately summed up, and

it was revealed to Peter.

How did Peter respond to the voice? Look at verse 14. "'Surely not,

Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.'"

We understand why Peter protested. He was brought up in a society where

food laws were strictly kept. According to Leviticus 11, the Jews could

eat only the animals that chewed the cud and whose hoofs were not

divided but cloven. Peter had never eaten pigs or lizards or

squirrels. He had never eaten animals that were unclean. Because of

these food laws, the Jews despised the Gentiles, who ate raw and rare

meats of any kind. The Jews thought that the Gentiles were like unclean

animals because they ate all kinds of unclean animals. The Jews felt

nauseous even to think about the Gentiles because of their way of

eating.

The Jews also despised Gentiles because they thought they were not

God's chosen people. They thought God's favor was not extended to

Gentiles and that the law of God could not be applied to them. The

Jews' view of Gentiles was blindly prejudiced and traditional; it

lacked the universality of God. So Peter, who was brought up in these

rigid traditions, could not accept God's voice, "Kill and eat!" But in

order to proclaim the gospel of Jesus, Peter had to unlearn the old

habits and traditions of the Jews. According to the voice, Peter had to

kill and eat. But his stomach was too weak to digest all kinds of

insects and animals wiggling on the sheet.

What did God do with this man who had such a weak stomach? Look at

verses 15 and 16. "The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call

anything impure that God has made clean.' This happened three times,

and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven." In these verses,

all kinds of animals and insects represent all kinds of peoples on

earth. "Kill and eat," meant, "Go into all the world and preach the

good news to all creation" (Mk.16:15). For Peter, world evangelization

was an impossible task as long as he called anything impure that God

had made clean. He needed to change his outlook on the Gentiles. He

needed to train his stomach until it could eat deliciously any kind of

food. Above all, he needed to obliterate the solidarity of Jewish

exclusivism from his heart so that he could rise above his own culture

and traditions and learn the universality of God's love.

While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men

sent by Cornelius found Simon's house. While Peter was still thinking

about the vision, the Spirit told him to go downstairs to meet them and

go with them without hesitation. In this way, Peter and the men from

Cornelius met together at the house of Simon. Peter was not ready to

invite them into the house as guests. But the Holy Spirit helped him to

do so. It is interesting to note that although Peter only thought about

delicious food, God showed him a great vision of his world salvation

plan.

II. Peter's message to Cornelius (10:23b-48)

The next day Peter arrived in Caesarea. As Peter entered the house,

Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence, together with his

relatives and close friends. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he

said, "I am only a man myself" (23b-26). There was a large gathering of

people inside the house. Peter said to them, "You are well aware that

it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit

him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or

unclean" (28). Again Peter says in verse 34, "I now realize how true it

is that God does not show favoritism..." At this point Peter realized

that God is not only the God of the Jews but also the God of the

Gentiles. A great revolution had erupted in his heart. As soon as Peter

finished telling the whole story of how he had come to their house,

Cornelius asked Peter to speak God's message to them. In verses 34-43

Peter spoke of the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord

of all. In this we learn several things about Jesus.

First, Jesus was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit. Look at verse

38. "...how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and

power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under

the power of the devil, because God was with him." Why did God anoint

Jesus with the Holy Spirit? It was because God, through his Son Jesus

Christ, who was anointed with the Holy Spirit, wanted to deliver all

those who were under the power of the devil. Mankind seems to have many

problems. But the root problem of mankind is that they are suffering

under the power of the devil. Jesus is the only one who saves people

who suffer under the power of the devil because Jesus is anointed with

the Holy Spirit.

Second, Jesus died on a tree. Look at verse 39. "We are witnesses of

everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They

killed him by hanging him on a tree..." Jesus was sent by God. While on

earth, he healed the sick and preached the good news of the kingdom of

God. His life was truly beautiful, so much so that during the last

2,000 years many people have made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to feel

his footsteps. Even now there are so many people who want to follow in

his footsteps. Everything he did was life-giving, and an invitation to

God's kingdom, where there are no more tears. But evil men killed him

by hanging him on a tree. They did not like Jesus because they were so

sinful and Jesus was so beautiful. They killed Jesus simply because

Jesus was so beautiful. But he was not just a victim of sinful men; his

death was for the sin of the world. John 1:29b says, "Look, the Lamb of

God, who takes away the sin of the world!"

Third, Jesus rose again. Look at verse 40. "...but God raised him from

the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen." When Jesus was

crucified on a tree and died, the power of sin and death seemed to win

the victory over the good Jesus. But this was not true. "God raised him

from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was

impossible for death to keep its hold on him" (Ac 2:24). Through his

death Jesus destroyed the power of sin and death. Through his

resurrection he won an eternal victory for us. There is victory for all

who believe in him.

Fourth, God appointed him as judge of the living and the dead. Look at

verse 42. "He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that

he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead."

No man is worthy to be a judge over others because we are all the same

sinful human beings. But Jesus is worthy to be the judge of all men

because with his blood he purchased men for God from every tribe and

language and people and nation (Rev 5:9). Death is not the end of

everything. After death, each of us must stand before the Judge to

receive a report card.

Fifth, Jesus is the giver of forgiveness of sins. Look at verse 43.

"All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him

receives forgiveness of sins through his name." No one can be happy

when he is sick with sins. No one can enter into a new relationship

with God without the forgiveness of sins. No one can enter the kingdom

of God except through Jesus' grace of forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the

only one who gives the grace of forgiveness of sins to those who come

to him.

What was the response to Peter's message? The Holy Spirit came on

all who heard the message from their hearts. Cornelius' attitude in

listening to the message was so sincere that the Holy Spirit began to

work in him and in his people. The circumcised believers who had come

with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been

poured out even on the Gentiles and that they spoke in tongues,

praising God. Peter said to the circumcised believers in verse 47, "Can

anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have

received the Holy Spirit just as we have." In this Peter was saying

that since the Gentiles had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit,

they could be baptized with water and declare that they too were God's

people.

III. Peter defends himself (11:1-18)

Look at 11:1-3. The circumcised believers were boggled on the inside

because of Peter's visiting Cornelius. Because of this incident, Peter

became a target of criticism. They criticized Peter that he went into

the house of a Gentile, and that he ate with Gentiles. Their criticisms

were so funny. They were slaves of their own traditions.

What did Peter do to explain his actions? In verses 4-16, Peter told

them the whole story once again about how he saw a vision of unclean

animals, and how he met Cornelius, and how he spoke to him and what

happened after his message. In conclusion, Peter said, "So if God gave

them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus

Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?" (17) After

listening to Peter, the Jewish Christians agreed to accept Gentiles as

the same human beings and as the same fellow Christians. Look at verse

18. "When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised

God, saying, 'So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance

unto life.'"

In this passage we learn that Peter and Cornelius saw a vision of

God when they prayed. Let's pray earnestly until we meet God personally

and see God's vision. It is the time for all young men to see God's

vision. Sometimes we think, "What's the use of the life of faith in

this generation?" But this is not right. God used the lives of faith of

Peter and Cornelius when they saw the vision of God. God used them to

make a bridge between Jerusalem and Rome for future world

evangelization. May God bless you to be men and women of God's great

vision through prayer.